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Equal parenting is more than just sentiment, we need better framework.

Outdated legislation and policies need to catch up in order to support both parents and children equally.


equal parenting

How is it that in 2024 we are still campaigning for equal opportunities when it comes to parenting? It's archaic.


How in the information age, with the majority of the world agreeing in equality are we seeing such slow progress in matters relating to parents and their children?


I've touched on this subject many times in the past, like in my article: 'Removing the incentives to alienate'.


While it's well documented that I now have an equal arrangement with my son, I've decided to revisit the matter after experiencing another setback in trying to do what's best for my son.


If you've been a member of PAPA for a while then you'll already know of my previous battles. One of the more recent being my son's primary school.


For those that don't know or can't remember; I couldn't agree with my son's mother on what primary school my son should go to.


It's important to understand that this was at a time where I'd already had to fight to see my son and I had a very bad relationship with my son's mother as a result, we now have a more amicable relationship. While I wouldn't say we are co-parenting, we've managed to find a happy medium somewhere in between co-parenting and parallel parenting. Which has to be considered a success given where we were when my son was much younger.


At the time, we lived around 4 miles apart and I'd done a lot of research into the best primary schools in the area and the ones I thought would be best for my son. My son's mother at the time had no intention of considering any options other than school nearest to her, which was not one of the best in the area, far from it.


She actually applied for the school without telling me so I then had to put in a second application with Children's Services.


What happened as a result was that they froze both applications and gave us a deadline to agree on a school.


I could understand from my son's mothers perspective that the school needed to be accessible as she could not drive. So I offered to pay for her driving lessons and to buy her a (cheap) car if she agreed to apply for the better schools in the area (all within 4 miles).


Unfortunately she was not willing so I offered the two best schools within a mile from her house, again unwilling. I was willing to make compromises however my son's mother was only interested in that one school for no other reason, other than her convenience.


So of course, we didn't end up agreeing.


As a result, Children's Services had to make a decision and they decided to put my son in the school nearest to my child's mother.


All that effort to research and look at schools, to compromise and what felt like endless communication with the admissions board and Children's Services to no avail.


I also tried to appeal this but I was unsuccessful. I've got over it but it still frustrates me to this day when I think about it.


At this point I had established an equal arrangement with my son, he was with me a lot and also living at mine.


The reason why Children's Services decided to put my son in the school closest to his mother is because they told me that his mother's address was his primary address so they automatically put him in the school nearest to his primary address.


Except this wasn't his primary address, he had two addresses, neither one more important than the other. He had dad's house and mum's house.


There was no residency order in place and we had managed to (eventually) agree on a 50/50 contact arrangement without the need for a court order. I had always been on his birth certificate, my details were registered with his at his GP and anywhere else you can think of.


I didn't give it up so of course I appealed and in the end the ONLY reason I could not get my son into a better school is because of a technicality.


They recognised I was his father, I had "equal say" and "equal responsibility", they accepted he had two addresses but they told me because I didn't claim the child benefit for him I was considered a secondary parent in their decision making process.


So because I'm not entitled to financial help in taking care of my son I'm somehow the "lesser" parent? I'm even getting angry just writing about it, just as I was at the time.


For those unaware, in the UK only one parent is allowed to claim child benefit for their child.


This is systemically wrong because as you can see from the above, it sets a precedent that one parent is more important than the other, which is rarely the case.


In my situation you have one parent who has researched schools and tried to compromise in order to get what is best for their child only to have themselves and their child disadvantaged due to them being the parent "forced" to provide for their child without any help from the government.


Make it make sense.


Now, luckily for me I can drive and have been able to make that journey to take my son to school every day for the past 5 or 6 years since the decision was forced upon us but what if I couldn't drive?


The reality is if I couldn't drive or I was in a more difficult position financially without the government's assistance then I wouldn't have been able to take my son to school. Inevitably this would have restricted my time with him and I may have potentially been estranged or alienated as a result.


This is a huge problem nationwide and one of the reasons why I continued with PAPA back then.


We have systems and policies in place that perpetuate parental alienation.


Some may brush my situation off as a rarity but the reality is my situation is much more common than most people realise.


With over 60% of marriages ending in divorce, with there being more "single parent" households year on year as well as more people working from home and women working full time it's very clear that the policies in place are very outdated.


We need urgent reform to reflect modern parenting arrangements and to protect both parents and their children's rights.


I'm bringing up my primary school battle again because I'm now faced with my first personal battle in years, which (somewhat laughably) is a battle to get my son into a good secondary school.


This time myself and my son's mother did manage to agree after my son expressed his wishes on where he wanted to attend, so I thankfully don't have to have that battle again.


Unfortunately however my son is still a victim of circumstance and I'm currently in the process of appealing for my son to be accepted into the best school in the area.


The admissions board didn't offer him a place due to their oversubscription criteria and because he wasn't in their catchment area (because his mum's address is about 100 yards outside) he wasn't given priority.


I do understand this and respect that this policy needs to be in place but it's still incredibly disappointing.


What's more disappointing is he was also not offered a place in the second best school in the area and they were the only two we applied for and the only two we went to look at.


I wrongfully assumed the second choice was a given as his mum's address is in the catchment area. Instead he's been given a place at the worst of the three school's in the area.


The most frustrating thing for me is that now we've moved 10 miles away from his mum's address and with his mum still not being able to drive; it meant that we only could apply for schools close to her and I'd be the one continuing to do the leg work.


Over the years I've accepted this so it is what it is and the two schools we applied for are good schools so it wasn't an issue for me.


However now it has become an issue because even though we are only 10 miles away from his mum's address and literally only a 20 minute drive, we are actually in a different county.


This meant I was not able to put any schools close to our home as part of our school application because I could only apply for nearby schools in the county of his mum's address.


Frustratingly, the three schools that are within a few miles from our house are all better than the school he's been given a place at and they're actually better than the second choice in our application.


I'm still not able to give my son the opportunities he deserves and is even entitled to based on where we live because the framework again is telling me he only has ONE address that matters.


At least if I could have made applications for both of his addresses then he definitely would already have a place in a better school than he currently does.


As it stands I'm in the position of appealing an admissions decision AGAIN!


I've been told I can only appeal the school that was first choice and cannot appeal our second choice so my son will either get the best school in the area or the worst school in the area. The middle ground is unavailable to us.


I've been told I have a 20% chance of success and that most appeals are rejected.


Those numbers don't account for my love and passion for my son and his wellbeing. I will do everything I can to make our case.


My son has already been a victim of circumstance on many occasions, now it's time for justice to take course.


No matter what I hope that our story helps to set a precedent in creating better framework designed to provide parents and children with more opportunities.


Thank you all for reading my rant!


I am now going to fill out my appeal form and start the process on fighting for my son's education for a second time.


Round 2. Ding Ding Ding!!


Need help?


If the subject of this article sounds familiar or you are experiencing parental alienation you can join PAPA for free support and help.


Join our support community here.


We also have a free support community group on Facebook with over 22,000 members including dedicated chat rooms for fathers, mothers and even chat rooms for members in different countries.

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I am in Vermont and they don't do anything about Parent Alienation! I am seeing this with my grandson. The hatred that he has because his dad has custody and is teaching him to hate us as well as his mother is unreal! His mom is fighting for her son but noone sees the abuse!! Help Please!

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